What is Ekadashi Vratham?
Ekadashi fasting is about spiritual cleansing. It is dedicated to Lord Vishnu the protector lord of the realm. The lunar phase, according to Hindu belief, has two distinct phases the Krishna Paksha (new moon) and the Shukla Paksha (waxing moon). Each phase is of 14 days.
The eleventh day is called Ekadashi (literally meaning eleventh). The Vratham or the ritualistic fast that is kept on this day is called Ekadashi Vratham and is observed by millions of Hindus all over the world. There are strict Ekadashi fasting rules.
In this article, we shall discuss how to do Ekadashi fast and what things you should be careful about while observing the Ekadashi Vrat.
Why do we fast on Ekadashi?
This question can be answered very well by the worshippers of Lord Vishnu. The Ekadashi fast benefits are meant for those who have faith and worship Lord Vishnu. It is considered to be amongst the most fruitful fasts in Hinduism. Ekadashi fasts benefits can bring you peace, harmony, and prosperity.
Vishnu narrated the significance of Ekadashi fast to Yudhishthira. He said those who are truly faithful must observe this day to purify the soul and attain Moksha (salvation).
Since the main purpose of human life is to attain salvation, this fast is said to be particularly helpful for all. Devout observers of this pious Hindu ritual attain peace of mind and prosperity.
How to do Ekadashi fast?
Ekadashi fast has many rules that must be observed properly to attain the desired results:
- Pregnant women and infirm and old people must not keep this fast.
- Only those who are determined and deeply spiritual can observe this fast as per the rules.
- Food and water must not be touched during fasting hours. However, those who cannot observe Nirjala Ekadashi (Ekadashi without water) can intake fruit and milk.
- Intake of food grains, meat, and fish is strictly prohibited.
- The fast must start at sunrise and must end at sunset. Observers of this fast are advised to wake up in the morning, take a purifying bath and recite the Vishnu mantra, Om Namo Bhagvate Vasudevaya.
- Observers of this fast should refrain from violence, deceit, and lying and indulge in charitable activities.
What can we eat at Ekadashi fast?
Ekadashi fasting food excludes meat, grains, and fish. Instead, fruits, milk and milk-based products, and non-grain products are to be eaten. If you are observing Ekadashi fast for the first time and dont know what to eat, try to avoid flour, rice, wheat, pulses, onion, and garlic.
On the other hand, various kinds of fruits, paneer, ghee, makhana, singhare ke atta, kuttu ka atta, and rajgira ka atta can be consumed. Those who are observing the extreme variant of this fast (i.e. Nirjala Ekadashi) must not drink water. Smoking and drinking alcohol are strictly prohibited during the fast.
Ever wondered why Ekadashi fasting is so important?
Ekadashi was the name given to a Goddess who was one of the creations of Lord Vishnu. According to the tail Demon, Mura was to be defeated for the sake of peace which was done by Ekadashi.
Getting pleased with her act of killing the demon lord Vishnu endowed her that if a person will observe the fast of Ekadashi then he will be able to free himself from all the sins and impurities of the mind and will surely get Moksha which is considered by people as one of the Ekadashi fast benefits. Thus, Ekadashi fast is a very special and prominent fast to date.
Benefits of Ekadashi Fasting
In Hinduism, fasting is a way of making the human body a subject of rituals that are a need and part of worshipping God and Ekadashi is one such fast. During the worship of God, a lot of rituals are performed depending upon the king and deity being worshipped. Fasting is also a part of it.
Well, this phenomenon of purifying ones mind-body, and soul is not merely restricted to the supernatural world of the soul but finds its relevance in the scientific application of metabolism and other biological operations.
This art of worshipping and pleasing the deity is being practiced since ancient times and is prevalent in the modern world as well. Fasting lets you go on a spiritual journey and purify your conscious soul.
Fasting not only means restricting a complete diet but involves standard hygiene practices. Fruits and milk can be taken by a person who is fasting. There are numerous short stories associated with fasting and are present in the sacred and holy text of Hinduism.
There are a lot of scientific parameters of fastening. Researchers have found the biological effects of fastening on the human body. A lot of people are not aware of it but it is their faith that makes them keep fast.
Ekadashi fast benefits the worshippers of Vishnu
Fasting on the day of Ekadashi is equivalent to visiting any place of pilgrimage. The merit of this fast is considered to be the well-known Aswamedha sacrifice.
The Ekadashi day in the month is purely dedicated to those who want mental peace and stability. If you want to get rid of all your sins and purify your body, mind, and soul, then these Ekadashi fasting benefits are made for you.
Ekadashi fast not only cleans your soul but also makes your body detoxified and makes the body’s metabolism good. Worshippers of Lord Vishnu are aware of the fast of Ekadashi. Ultimate salvation, prosperity, and religious faith are some of the Ekadashi fast benefits.
When should we start Ekadashi fast?
Ekadashi fast means eleven and it falls every month on some phases of the moon resulting in the high and low tide of the sea. Overall there are 24 Ekadashi in a year and they are of prime importance for the worshippers of Lord Vishnu.
The timings of Ekadashi depend on the tithi. As long as the period of Ekadashi continues, you must observe fast. Consult a drikpanchang to know the timings of Ekadashi Fast.
When will my Ekadashi fast be completed?
Ideally, you should observe fast during the Ekadashi hours. However, you may eat the Ekadashi fasting food listed above after sunset. You may continue with your normal dietary routine after Ekadashi fast breaking time. You can visit the ISKCON Temple Delhi, Dwarka, and get details about the exact timings.
ISKCON Temple, Dwarka, offers spiritual and cultural guidance to people to enhance their quality of life and elevate them to a higher level of consciousness. The temple is also involved in a host of charitable activities, contributing positively to the larger community around us.
The temple celebrates all festivals that are important to Gaudiya Vaishnavas, including rituals relating to Ekadashi fasting. Come, be a part of ISKCONs Ekadashi fasting rituals.
Intermittent Fasting (IF) has been practiced for centuries with the belief of well-being getting restored. The so-called restoration of the internal milieu by calorie-free periods is believed in many religions. The Muslims practice the night-only feeds of Ramzan, the Christians in a few selected days of a week, and the Hindus fast every fifteen days on the day of Ekadashi.
Ekadashi is a Sanskrit word, which literally means the eleventh. It actually refers to the eleventh day of a fortnight and hence there are two such days in a lunar month. After the full calorie-free day, there are certain prescribed foods and nutrients to be taken the next day of Dwadashi among which amla fruit and agathi keerai leaves are necessarily taken as a starter before actual full-fledged refeeding.
There are a few specific ingredients in these foods which make them ideal to break a fasting session. As these days are associated with the Hindu deities such nutrition can be designed as spiritual nutrition. Such additives to a routine diet may help overcome the problems of refeeding.
In this review, we have attempted to define the scientific basis of fasting during Ekadashi and the reasoning behind the initial administration of agathi keerai leaves and amla fruits before the intake of a routine diet on the following day. i.e. Dwadashi.
We tried to look for scientific evidence behind such fortnightly fasting and the specialized feeds on the next day and kept them as objectives of this special reviewIntermittent restriction of calories has been described from time immemorial.
Fasting on and off has been associated with various advantages and different health benefits. As soon as the fasting begins, there is a metabolic switch that causes the energy extraction from carbohydrates to triglycerides. A ketogenic phase is initiated. This may influence health and aging. The periodic metabolic switch provides the ketones which are necessary to fuel the cells during calorie-free times. It also invokes systemic and cellular responses that continue into the fed state which comes later to improve mental and physical performance, as well as resistance to disease.
It decreases oxidative stress and inflammation markers, thereby improving asthma-related symptoms like wheezing and nocturnal cough. A few fasting regimens impose a diurnal rhythm on food intake. This resulted in better circadian clock gene expression. This expression can reprogram the molecular mechanisms of energy metabolism and also weight regulation. This is possibly one of the explanations for weight control in persons with calorie-restricted intermittent feeds.
IF may influence the gut microbiota, which is the scientifically explored complex, a diverse microbial community that is present in the intestinal tract. This influence improves both the obesity and the diabetic profile of patients. Caloric restriction/IF has been shown to better glucose homeostasis and insulin resistance in human beings. Fasting produces a modulation of lipid droplet protein composition, changes adipokine profile, and confers cardiovascular protection.
In a clinical trial, older adults on a short-term caloric restriction regimen had improved verbal memory. A subtle reduction in the progression of polycystic kidney disease and control of hypertension was also achieved with intermittent fasting. In women, reproductive and mental health is better with IF. A lot of studies have proved the beneficial effect of IF in the month of Ramzan9,10. Hence, we can deduce that IF has beneficial effects on all human beings despite their differences in age, sex, or chronic illnesses.
Ekadashi and Fasting
The Ekadashi day i.e. eleventh day of a lunar month is believed to be significant to Lord Vishnu and the followers of the Lord observe full fasting on this day. The fasting on this day is called Ekadashi Vrat. As there are two such days in a month, devotees observe two such fasting days in a month.
Ekadashi is when the distance between the Moon and Sun is in the range of 120-132 degrees or in the range of 300-312 depending upon whether the moons size is on the increase or decrease. The study of Vedic astronomy has revealed the significance of the moons position and its influence over the human mind. Ekadashi, the eleventh day of the lunar fortnight is said to be conducive for the mind to be in its natural state of wisdom.
Hence, if we fast and orient the mind it’s likely to act better. Another explanation for Ekadashi fasting is that compared to any other day of the moon cycle, atmospheric pressure is supposed to be lowest in the coming days.
In Liebers research on patients with manic depression, he noticed the recurrences of clinical psychiatric symptoms during extreme tidal days. It is his thesis that a range of manic attacks is more common on tidal days.
Thus, Ekadashi fasting has multiple effects both on the body and the mind to balance such negative effects. The premier effect is to keep the balance of hormones and other bodily secretions in relation to the glands and cells. If there would be no food and water in the stomach these days, the so-called linear attraction is unlikely to affect the gut, kidney, and liver.
Hence, this is the ideal time to fast and cleanse the bowel system. As such these studies establish our observations that intermittent fasting once in fifteen days is likely to reap health benefits. Still, we have to be careful in advising all the benefits as such; because IF may have adverse implications for the malnourished, pregnant women and children.
Post Fasting Health
Feeding behavior has been shown to be modulated by the hunger state. Prolonging the inter-meal intervals or inducing weight loss can positively influence perceived taste pleasantness, a concept known as alliesthesia.
Usually, hunger ensues and an attempt to overeat to compensate for the IF occurs. Problems can arise after IF when someone who has been fasting for half a day begins to take too many liquids and binge eating carbohydrate-rich food within a short period of time13. As a result, such people usually develop gaseous distension, gastritis, and reflux (GERD) symptoms and can even vomit.
There may be changes in the digestive pancreatic juice secretion. The liver phosphoglucomutase and phosphor-hexose isomerase activity after IF decreased significantly. Hence any avid refeeding as noted as alliesthesia is likely to cause digestive problems and more likely to cause decreased compliance towards IF among persons. A planned nutritional supplement ending the fast followed by calorie intake is likely to be better to reap the benefits of IF.
Any nutritious diet which is likely to do good for the mind, body, and soul can be termed as spiritual nutrients. To be clear, any nutrient which has been detailed in ancient culture as an associate of God giving dietary benefits can be termed as spiritual nutrients.
After a calorie-restricted Ekadashi, usually on the next day i.e. Dwadashi, the fast is broken by taking two important nutrients. These are the gooseberry or the amla fruit and the Agatha leaves.
Amla or Gooseberry
(Emblica officinalis) is widely used in the Indian traditional system of medicine and is culturally believed to increase defense against disease in us. Amla contains many nutrients: it is abundant with vitamin C and is beneficial for us. It also contains many minerals like phosphorous, and iron and vitamins like calcium, carotene, and different components of the vitamin B complex.
It also has tannins which might counter the polyol pathway-induced oxidative stress and decrease such stress15. Amla has a lot of potential and proven benefits against diabetes and cardiovascular diseases16. In our setting its use after fasting, it is still to be explored.
The Amla fruit normalizes digestion, reduces gastric acidity, and rejuvenates the liver. It relieves constipation by an improved colonic action. It also modifies the secretion of pancreatic and biliary juice. It gives 48 calories per 100 grams also. The amla fruit has clear anti-ulcer and anti-helicobacter pylori actions. These actions exactly suit the post-fasting gut state.
Hence a nutritious food with some calories with normalization of the gut and its acidity is the ideal one for breaking the fast. This exactly matches with amla fruit. Gut microbiota can significantly influence health and disease. Fasting has significant changes in the gut probiotics like Lactobacillus (LAB). LAB in curd had properties consistent with probiotic potential, but mildly inconsistent. LAB abundance in curd increased rapidly at 12 h of fermentation at room temperature.
The results of a few studies indicate the beneficial potential of L. acidophilus in fasted and re-fed nutritional states by a reduction of harmful azoreductase and thereby it can improve colonic function. Hence it has been traditionally stated that amla curd combination with a raita recipe is one of the time-tested combinations to break fasting.
Apart from some calories, its an antiulcer and digestive balancer with probiotic potential. The mixture also makes amla tastier with less sourness. Amla is rich in vitamin C which is easily digestible and one of the described food supplements for breaking the fasting.
Sesbania grandiflora is the botanical name of Agathi which belongs to the family Fabaceae. Its also rich in vitamin C. The Agatha leaves can also give 27 calories per 100 grams. A mild calorie supplier which can ease any problem of fasting hypoglycemia, it has rich nutrients which can have potential benefits in fasting.
The leaf extracts of Agatha have a lot of therapeutic uses like antioxidant, anti-helminthic, immunomodulatory, and cytoprotective effects. The most important effects are in the digestive system. It decreases acid production and causes better intestinal motility. The Agatha leaves can be consumed in the form of either juice or cooked spinach.
The thin stem of the plant is used as an ingredient in medicines in Siddha and Ayurveda. It is supposed to be a powerful herb. It will neutralize medicines and render them ineffective. Even though it has many uses, a daily intake has been associated with gut problems. It is advisable to take again leaves two to three times a month. Its a spiritual coincidence that the 12th day of the lunar month (Dwadashi) falls twice a month.
Hence it is very logical to name, a nutrient with a spiritual background with scientific explanations of its actions as a spiritual nutrient. Any fasting is likely to be ketogenic. Hence a diet with antoketogenic properties like Agathi will be of immense help to fasting persons. Hence a combination of amla-curd-raita and gather leaves is depicted in the ancient Indian culture as a spiritual nutrient combination.
Curd has got innumerable health benefits including anti-gastritis properties. Such combinations can smoothly overcome any hiccups during the process of breaking the fast. This spiritual nutrition mixture, taken in precisely described amounts can be very effective to tide over any digestive problems with retention of the health benefits of intermittent fasting.
With the above scientific evidence, we can deduce that such fasting and breaking the practice with specific nutritive feeds is likely to reap rich health benefits satisfying our primary objectives of this review
Intermittent fasting during Ekadashi is extremely useful with antioxidant antiaging and many other beneficial effects on health. Fortnightly fasting has been scientifically proven to produce hormonal changes.
Breaking the fast every time with a combination of amla-raita and gather leaves with a significantly positive effect on the digestive system is scientifically the near ideal nutritious food. These dietary supplements supply adequate calories having anti-ulcer properties with a probiotic additive. Even though there are rich benefits. IF is not to be practiced in children, malnourished and pregnant women.